Sanchez ready to go to war

Diego Sanchez challenges B.J. Penn for the lightweight championship Saturday at UFC 107. (UFC photo)

Diego Sanchez challenges B.J. Penn for the lightweight championship Saturday at UFC 107. (UFC photo)

NEIL SPRINGER -- SLAM! Sports

, Last Updated: 9:31 AM ET

With the recent slew of injuries, illnesses and fight cancellations in mixed martial arts, it's almost miraculous the UFC 107 main event has gone unscathed.

For Diego (The Nightmare) Sanchez, who challenges lightweight champion B.J. (The Prodigy) Penn in the featured fight Saturday in Memphis, Tenn., this is an opportunity to end 2009 with a bang.

"I think with everything that's been happening, it's just a blessing for me and B.J. -- we get to finish the year," Sanchez said on the UFC 107 media conference call. "We get to be the two guys to sign the ink on the end of the year."

Of the five UFC titleholders, only Penn is currently in fighting condition.

Georges (Rush) St. Pierre is expected to return early next year from a groin injury, Anderson (The Spider) Silva is still recovering from elbow surgery, Lyoto (The Dragon) Machida needed work to repair an injured hand and Brock Lesnar has been sidelined with a potentially career-ending intestinal disorder.

There also hasn't been a title defence since UFC 104 in October, when Machida earned a controversial decision over Mauricio (Shogun) Rua. The bout left a bad taste in the mouths of many.

Sanchez (21-2) admitted the UFC has had a rough run lately. However, he believes his fight with Penn (14-5-1) will be one of the year's best.

"Why are my fights exciting? Ask yourself that," Sanchez said. "It's because I risk it, man. I want to fight. I want to step in there and go to war. I want to leave it all out there in the cage, instead of giving a boring-ass fight like Houston Alexander running around, trying to do a few leg kicks on this weekend's Ultimate Fighter finale.

"That's not what the fans want. That's boring. That makes our sport look bad."

The bout with Sanchez will mark Penn's third lightweight title defence. Though he was stopped by St. Pierre in a welterweight scrap at UFC 94 last January, he has not lost a fight at 155 pounds since dropping a majority decision to Jens Pulver at UFC 35 in 2002.

Sanchez, on the other hand, has lost twice in his career -- a unanimous decision to Josh (Kos) Koscheck at UFC 69 and a split-decision to Jon Fitch at UFC 76. Both those bouts were at welterweight, though. Since dropping to lightweight he has earned wins over Joe (Big Daddy) Stevenson and Clay (The Carpenter) Guida.

Though Penn is considered the favourite going in -- the betting line currently has him at -300 and Sanchez at +220 -- he doesn't necessarily feel he has the edge in any one aspect.

"I don't know about any specific advantages. I just think the game is going to play out in certain areas," Penn said. "Diego's got a nice right uppercut, a good left hand and a good left kick, but I'm sure he has a lot of other good (skills).

"I don't really see it as big advantages in certain areas. You see certain fighter's tendencies and you just have to capitalize and prepare for those tendencies."

Though UFC 107 will be Sanchez's first 25-minute fight, he said conditioning has never been an issue for him.

"Even in my two losses, I just wish I would have had two more rounds," Sanchez said. "I've always been a five-round fighter. My conditioning has always been great. I've never gotten tired in one fight in my whole life.

"I've always wanted to fight a five-round fight. This whole fight is just a dream come true. Fighting B.J. Penn...in my opinion, there's not a better fighter out there."


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